Harassment of Women in Public Transport necessitates for women-only transport
Harassment of women in public transport is widely reported with 92% of women interviewed for a research conducted by Social Research and Development Organization (SRDO) preferred to travel in women-only transport, which is seen nowhere here. A social researcher Mr Amir Murtaza who led the research said the majority of the women who commute using public transport wagons and buses have complained of different forms of harassment, including verbal, physical and sexual harassment. The survey of 75 women commuters, aged 19 and 45, conducted in Karachi also disclosed that inappropriate touching, making sexual comments and steering by male passengers is overwhelmingly rife. The respondents, however, made it clear that the incidents of harassment are far lesser in rickshaws and taxis. Farhana Hussain, a women rights activist, said, “we should not see the issue, harassment of women in public transport, in isolation as it is an open fact that harassment and violence against women inside four walls and on the streets is just one feature of our male dominated structure that always put blame on victims instead of helping them.” She said successive governments have taken very positive steps and introduced specific legislation to curb violence and harassment against women in houses, at workplace and in public transport. However, a clear lack in implementation mechanism has made it difficult to provide.- A large majority of respondents, 59 percent, informed that insufficient space for women passengers in buses and wagons is a major problem for them. A nineteen-year girl student on condition of anonymity told the survey team that she and her friend due to repeated incidents of harassment at the bus, they have started commuting in rickshaw. “Though traveling in rickshaw is quite expensive for us, but we feel quite secure in it,” she added, “in my opinion the government should introduce women-only buses in big cities to tackle the issue of harassment of women passengers.” Mohammad Anwar, an International Development Consultant, informed that the idea of women-only transportation services is not new in many parts of the world. He further said that such services are being launched in several countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Japan, only to prevent the harassment of women and young girls in public buses. The research pointed out that 92 percent of the respondents would prefer to travel in women-only buses or wagons as they absolutely felt more secure to travel without the males. It is interesting to note that a large percentage of respondents, 84 percent, showed their willingness to stay at the bus stops even for more than 45 minutes, if they have any chance to travel in women-only bus or wagon. However, 16 percent of the respondents observed that they may not spend much time waiting women-only transport. Another working woman Ms K, 38, who had experienced visible harassment while standing at a wagon stop, said once a young motorcycle rider insisted her to sit with him and despite the fact that many people were standing on the spot, no one had bothered to stop the boy to harassing her. Abdul Qadir Bullo, President SRDO, while commenting on the situation observed that due to failure of law and order situation, people have started ignoring such incidents as they don’t want to involve themselves in any such incident or situation. He observed that even police don’t take road side harassment of women or girls, very seriously. Unfortunately, 76 percent of the respondents opined that the victims of harassment should remain silent; however, 24 percent observed that women/girls should immediately report the case. One of the respondents suggested setting up a helpline to specifically deal with the cases of harassment in public transport. Rubina Ihsan, a lawyer by profession, said in majority of harassment cases women or girls were too afraid to respond. “If the victim opts to keep silent the perpetrator takes further advantages.” She suggested that the government should take strict measures to tackle the issue of harassment of women in public transport. The survey further informs that despite the fact that playing loud music in public buses or wagons is a serious offence and can result in fine for vehicle drivers; however, a majority of bus drivers don’t bother to follow traffic rule and play loud music that according to 90 percent of the respondents is very annoying. Abdul Qadir Bullo, President SRDO, observed that loud music could also be a contributing factor in road accidents. He said traffic police should strictly check and impose fine on the violators of traffic rules and regulations. Imdad Hussain, a social worker and human rights activist, said the number of women commuters is moving in upward direction while only a small compartment and very few seats are reserved for women in public transport. He added that it is a matter of concern that male passengers even, sometimes, occupy place in women reserved compartment, which is legally and morally wrong. The owners and associations of public transport should make sure that their drivers and support staff obey traffic rules and regulations. Furthermore, federal and provincial legislators and officials should take necessary steps to improve legislation and implementation with a view to tackle harassment of women in public transport in the country.